A timeless voice with deep Austin roots returns to Texas this month.
Jazz vocalist Kat Edmonson plays in San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and Houston just two weeks after the Feb. 7 release of her new album, “Dreamers Do.” A blend of reimagined mid-20th century classic Disney songs, the album is unique and whimsical.
We spoke with Edmonson ahead of the release of her new album, which has themes of hope, excitement, wonder, confusion, compassion, understanding and joy.
Can you elaborate on the inspiration for “Dreamers Do,” including the Disney-related songs?
“Dreamers Do” takes place in a single night, from bedtime till morning. It’s about our concepts around dreaming. All of the wonderful things and the fearful things, the things that keep us awake in the middle of the night. It’s also about the quiet power of merely having a dream.
About two years ago, I began to revisit the music of my childhood – songs I learned from mid-20th century Disney movies, including “Alice in Wonderland,” “Cinderella,” “Peter Pan” and more. The music in these films and their themes about following one’s heart had a lasting impact on me. I’d written a song, “Too Late to Dream,” which is the central focus of the album. It asks the question, “Is it ever too late to dream?” I was looking for an answer.
What is your favorite song on “Dreamers Do?”
I love “Second Star to the Right” from the movie “Peter Pan.” Our arrangement conjures a gentle feeling of compassion and release. It comes at a point in the record where a release is absolutely necessary to make way for peace after a great deal of wondering and questioning. It took my co-producer, Aaron Thurston, and me a really long time to figure out how to arrange this song. We tried out a lot of different ways and, after a great deal of frustration, stumbled on this approach. It was a cathartic moment.
You started your musical career at Austin nightclubs. Which clubs did you play in?
I sang at The Elephant Room regularly. I had a weekly gig at Eddie V’s Steakhouse, and I used to also perform in a band called The Kat’s Meow. We had a monthly night at Z Tejas among other places. Our band leader and guitarist was the late great Slim Richey. I miss him.
You’ve toured with a wide range of artists including Lyle Lovett, Chris Isaak, Willie Nelson and Smokey Robinson. Do you have a favorite story from the road?
I was most excited to tour with Lyle Lovett. I bought his record “Pontiac” in high school and bought tickets to see his shows as an adult. The first time he invited me to sing with him, I was so excited and so nervous and I had a terrible cold… but I was ready! And he made me feel like I belonged there. I think maybe the greatest part about having success is being able to meet and work with the artists you admire. It’s in those moments that you remember so well why you wanted to go after your dreams in the first place.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I have always lived in the United States but am attracted to music from all over the world. When I moved to New York City, I began hearing instruments I’d never heard before like kora (West African harp), erhu and pipa (Chinese string instruments) being played by buskers in the subways. It was then that I became inspired to record with those instruments.
As a native Texan, how do you feel about your upcoming shows in San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and Houston?
I can’t wait! I miss Texas and I love coming back. It’s wonderful to play for my home state and see a lot of familiar faces at the shows.
Kat Edmonson will eloquently grace the stage in San Antonio at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts on February 18. You can catch her February 19 at The Paramount in Austin, or Kessler Theater in Dallas on February 20. She’ll also be at Heights Theatre in Houston February 21, and The Bugle Boy in La Grange on February 22.
Cover: Courtesy photo